When it comes to your continuing professional development (CPD), the learning activities you select can take your career from good to great. With so much at stake, how can you navigate your CPD to ensure it gives you the professional edge?
For you, your career, and your life to go from good to great, your training must evolve from acceptable to incredible. Foreseeing that excellent professional development will be a core differentiator for members, in 2020, SAICA upgraded the CPD model to lead members to a new way of measuring their learning and development. SAICA revised the underlying approach to the CPD policy from an input, time-based approach to a result- and outcome-based (competency) approach. According to SAICA, no longer should you be preoccupied with the number of hours of development, but rather focus on how that investment in learning is shaping and preparing you for the evolving needs of business in developing you into the accounting professional of the future.
Benefits of CPD
The benefits of undertaking CPD are vast and far-reaching. When you engage in learning and development activities that contribute towards your CPD on a regular basis, you improve your skillset and knowledge base, making you better equipped to handle the challenges of the modern workplace. You also become more marketable, as potential employers recognise that you are proactive and invested in your own professional growth. Additionally, undertaking these activities helps keep you up to date with the latest changes in your field, guiding you toward cutting-edge techniques and technologies. Ultimately, good-quality learning and development activities will be the differentiator between a good career and a great one and can spotlight you as a leader in your field.
Types of professional development
There are many different types of professional development, and it‘s important to select the ones that resonate with your learning style and will be most beneficial for you. Some of the most popular types of learning and development activities are attending workshops and seminars, reading articles and books, reading industry journals, networking with professionals, participating in online courses and volunteering for project work. There are, however, many different ways in which learning and development takes place: one increasing in popularity is personal coaching or mentoring.
It is also useful to select a variety of different types of learning and development activities to layer your learning experience and deepen your knowledge in a specific area. No matter what type of learning and development activities you choose to pursue, be sure to select programmes that are relevant and valuable to you.
So, how do you know where to focus your learning activities?
Planning your learning and development activities
Creating your personal reflective learning plan (as required by the SAICA CPD policy) begins with setting clear professional goals for yourself. The age-old question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ is an important one to consider when planning your learning and development activities. In fact, where you see yourself in a year (short term), in 2−3 years (medium term) and in 5−10 years (long term) all matter.
When it comes to creating a reflective learning plan (also known as a personal development plan), having a set of goals will help you to invest your time, money and energy in activities that contribute directly to your career ambitions. It is easy to ‘go with the flow’ in your career, but without clear goals, you will not know if the direction of that flow is by your design or by someone else‘s.
For each goal (your point B), reflect on where you are in terms of your current roles and responsibilities (your point A). Your reflective learning plan covers the developmental pathway that will lead you from point A to point B. This pathway includes developing competencies (knowledge, skills, experience) that are missing or that need further improvement, and for each area identified, the activities you need to undertake to close the gap, together with timelines for completion. Planning in this way ensures that CPD activities are unique to you and are relevant and aligned to your professional goals. Tip: SAICA’s CPD Reflective Plan template is a valuable resource to help with your planning (this is illustrative in nature and can be found on the SAICA website).
Measure and reflect on outcomes
Once you have planned your CPD activities, it is critical to track and measure the outcomes. What did you learn? How will this learning contribute to your professional goals? Is there additional training needed to further your professional competence?
Understanding this data will help you reflect on your progress and make appropriate adjustments. For example, if an activity didn‘t meet expectations, why not? What could be done differently next time to ensure better outcomes?
Reflecting on outcomes in this way is critical because it provides insight into what was learned and how this will be applied in practice. To reflect effectively, ensure that reflection time is built into your schedule after completing each CPD activity. This could be in the form of a journal entry, discussion with peers or simply noting what worked well and what didn‘t.
Benefits of reflection
The SAICA CPD model emphasises reflection because of the significant power it holds. The benefits of reflection are vast and can include improved performance due to learning from experience, better decision making because of critical thinking, greater creativity, and innovation due to problem solving and increased self-awareness and understanding of own strengths and weaknesses.
An example of a learning and development activity that incorporates deep reflection is the Leadership Evolution Masterclass Series (LEMS) aimed at female CAs, hosted annually since 2018. One of the reasons for this programme’s resounding success is that participants are taught and practise the process and power of self-reflection. Not only is LEMS an example of a learning and development activity that specifically addresses common gaps experienced by women professionals climbing the corporate ladder, but the design of the programme supports participants in achieving outstanding outcomes. Like others, this programme is an example of an intervention designed with great outcomes in mind1.
Without a doubt, to be successful in today’s competitive job market, you need to invest in your own learning and development. The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities available to help you stay current in your field and learn new skills. The great news is you are in complete control of how you plan and act.
1 To find out more about LEMS and to join the class of 2022, stay tuned to your SAICA communication channels or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Choose interventions that fit your personal goals, needs and interests, and make sure to take advantage of all the learning opportunities available to you. With the right tools and attitude, you can go from good to great.
Usha Maharaj CA(SA), coach, speaker and founder of the Leadership Evolution Masterclass Series (LEMS)